Killing Justice: What Should be the Christian’s Reaction to the Death of Osama Bin Laden?
I was sitting in a jet black recliner, sinking into the comfort and checking the Facebook app on my iPhone for any interesting updates. Not expecting to find anything of historic significance, I came across a comment on one of my friend’s status updates mentioning that President Obama was going to make a statement on the death of Osama Bin Laden.
I was stunned for a moment and reached for the television remote to turn on the news. I sat and watched as the news anchors and then our President confirmed that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. I can’t really tell you what I felt about the whole thing at first. More than anything emotive, the whole situation was surreal, not unlike the time when I sat in front of the television in my 12th grade english class watching the World Trade Center collapse to the ground. As my mind began to wrap itself around the fact that U.S. troops had stormed a compound, killed the most dangerous terrorist in the world, and collected his body for proof, the first emotion that I could distinguish was excitement. I was excited that the man who was responsible for an attack on American soil was finally found and killed after ten long years of war. I was excited that the founder of Al Qaeda would no longer be able to feed more extremist violence into the world. But, is this the right response to the death of Bin Laden?
As I read through more social network commentary on the announcement, there seemed to be some pause regarding this issue. While some Christians were openly rejoicing in this news, others seemed to dissent. I was reminded by some that central to the Christian worldview is the fallen state of man. Bin Laden did horrible things, but we are no better off in comparison to God, “For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). We are all culpable and deserve death and judgment just the same as Bin Laden received. It is only by grace that we are saved from that judgement.
Furthermore, we are told in Ezekiel 33:11 that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but wants those who are wicked to turn from evil. Solomon also tells us in the Proverbs, “Don’t gloat when your enemy falls, and don’t let your heart rejoice when he stumbles, or the LORD will see, be displeased, and turn His wrath away from him” (24:17-18). With these verses now fresh in my mind, I couldn’t help but question the motives behind the excitement and happiness that I felt for Bin Laden’s death. It seemed pretty clear that God did not take pleasure in the death of this man, but isn’t this what I was doing? If I rejoice in the downfall of our enemies, does this displease God? Will God turn against us if we celebrate the death of an evil man? What is the Christian response to all of this?
Well, I can’t give you the official Christian response to the death of Osama Bin Laden, but I can at least give you one perspective on this event. After trying to take some time to really consider this issue, I think this has a lot more to do with the object of our emotions rather than the emotions themselves. I believe that there is a duality of proper emotions in this situation that can’t be escaped. We should rejoice in this situation and we should feel sorrow as well.
I believe that we should be genuinely happy with this news because of the fact that, in the words or our President, “… justice has been done.” There have been an incredible number of wrongs committed by Bin Laden and the rest of the Al Qaeda extremists. Our hearts cry out for justice and we want these wrongs to be corrected. We look to God in this situation and we see in Him a perfect Justice: “The Rock—His work is perfect; all His ways are entirely just. A faithful God, without prejudice, He is righteous and true” (Deut. 32:4). God embodies perfect justice and we should rejoice in that justice. We should love God’s justice in the same respect that He does.
At the same time, we should be filled with sorrow that Bin Laden has come to this end. It should pain us to see a fellow image-bearer of God be pulled into a life of murder and hate. It’s important for us to not forget that we are not fundamentally different from those in our crosshairs. As Derek Webb put it, “My enemies are men like me.” We should not rejoice in the fact that our competition has lost. We should not rejoice in the fact that our enemies have been killed.
When we take a look back at ourselves, its important for us to question the reason why we are happy. Are we truly happy because God has brought justice to the earth, or are we just happy that Bin Laden got his? It’s easy to rejoice and be happy when we are on the winning team, but how would our response change if we were on the receiving end? I haven’t known many to rejoice when judgement is being brought down upon them. It seems that we remember to rejoice in God’s justice when it is directed at “them,” but when that justice gets turned on us then we only remember the sorrow of our own downfall. If we are only happy because our enemies have fallen, then we don’t really care if that was an act of justice or not, we just care that we are better off. If we must kill, then that killing should be done in accordance with justice and not against it. We should rejoice when God brings justice to the earth, but we should also remember the bloody road that brought us here and the steep cost of bringing about that justice.
Check out THEOLOGY21’s Facebook page to stay up-to-date on all the news and articles. Click here
THEOLOGY21 is a co-op of authors dedicated to renovating theology for a new generation, taking the ancient truths of scripture and theology and speaking to the post-Christian culture of the 21st century. To keep up-to-date on all things THEOLOGY21, Give our Facebook page a “like”, follow our twitter page, add yourself to our email list, or subscribe to our feed!